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Ivory-Sniffing Dogs Are Running Down Poachers Across Africa

They find contraband goods in exchange for tennis balls.

by William H. Funk
20 March 2017, 12:00am

This article originally appeared on VICE New Zealand. 

Over the past few years the African poaching crisis has devolved into an overt war on the continent's iconic wildlife. Everything from rhinos to lions to giraffes are routinely slaughtered or enslaved for sale to criminal wildlife traffickers, a continental ecological meltdown worth an estimated $23 billion annually.

But a new breed of law enforcement has recently joined the agencies scrutinizing African exports and prosecuting traffickers. Meet Africa's newest dog brigade, part of a new program that pairs highly trained "sniffer dogs" with African law enforcement officers to intercept forbidden goods at their point of origin and before they can be shipped to their criminal buyers.

Will Powell is a young Brit who is heading up the African Wildlife Foundation's (AWF's) Canines for Conservation Programme, having already had broad international experience training his canine compatriots in the detection of everything from landmines to narcotics. But Powell said he's motivated mostly by it's wildlife crime.

"This has been running since the start of 2015 and now takes up all of our time training ivory detection dogs which are now successfully deployed with the wildlife authorities in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda and soon to be in Botswana, Cameroon and Mozambique," he told Motherboard.

A multinational consortium of breeds—Belgian Malinois, German shepherds, English springer spaniels and German shorthaired pointers—along with the tireless work ethic that Powell brings to training newly recruited handlers, is having a positive impact on the African poaching wars, tirelessly sniffing out one instance of wildlife crime after another.

Read the rest of this article on MOTHERBOARD.

Tagged:
dogs
africa
WILDLIFE
Ivory